Skip to main content

Skye (a land of myth much-missed)

In the early 2000s, a mysterious stranger began claiming a number of hard ascents, first in Glen Nevis (The Morrighan, Jupiter Collison...etc.)and then on the Isle of Skye (Extradition, It's Over etc.). In particular, the boulders of Coire Lagan held some great-looking lines which began appearing on a local blog featuring photographs of a lithe-looking climber on very steep lines, but usually static on one of the jugs and never on video. Many climbers had visited and tried the lines, coming back claiming they were futuristic and impossible. Dave MacLeod walked away from the mythical 'It's Over' with its wee undercut holds and obvious-but-out-of-reach double-sloper. The forums, for a year or two, were alive with debate as to who this stranger was and how the hell he had got so strong.

The legendary O'Conor blog, its posts notably created in the dark hours, like some intricate verbal death-star, has mostly been dismantled by its shamed owner, who was, at considerable expense and frustration, visited by John Watson on the Isle of Lewis to winkle out some element of truth to the whole debacle. Was this O'Conor the new Sharma? Him and his faithful dog padding up to the boulders, bivvying out in extreme temperatures, pulling off 8c problems 'out of the air'? Where did he train? How did he get so strong? Did the climbs actually exist? O'Conor, in person affable and persuasive, was at the same time evasive and only once put his shoes on in anger, struggling to get off the ground on his own 8a (6c) Atlantic Bridge at Port Nis (Watson flashed this and was bitterly disappointed to have to downgrade it so - he thought he'd pulled off a miracle). Who was the mythical 'Finn' he climbed with, who O'Conor claimed had spotted him on first ascents, but whom no-one had ever spotted themselves? The whole thing was an expensive outing for Watson (building to a whisky stand-off at 2am), who like others had been forced to mention these problems in early Scottish bouldering guides, giving the creature the benefit of the doubt... that he was indeed the Finn MacCool of legend, breakfasting on 8a's and crushing all under his fists of fury.

Well, things have quietened down a bit since those heady days, which is a shame since the online rants were legendary and much-missed by the Scottish climbing community. We wish Si well on his new ventures, whatever they may be - SBS extreme kayaking or some such -  and we are at least delighted to witness, on video, and indisputably, the reality of some of these climbs under the audit of peer-reviewed boulderers. Climbed by boulderers with a propensity for detail rather than tall tales, these legendary Skye problems now exist - thanks to Mike Adam for his dedication to such remote imaginings. But maybe, just maybe, the legend will return, tripod in hand, pair of old 5.10 Moccasyms in the other...?


Popular posts from this blog

Plato's Cave

In his famous 'allegory of the cave', the Greek philosopher Plato pondered the artificiality of reality in imagining how we could be fooled into thinking shadows on the wall (i.e. virtual reality) could be seen as 'real' life. I'm paraphrasing, of course. What has this got to do with climbing? Well, I was pondering this myself recently while sitting on an artificial concrete boulder at the new Cuningar Loop bouldering park in Glasgow. Does it really matter that a boulder is made of concrete, surrounded by plantation and skirted with kind gravel traps rather than tree roots and spikey boulders? Isn't the 'real' thing so much better: the isolated erratic bloc deposited by geology's long-term aesthetic artwork? Well, yes, that's entirely up to you, but sometimes the artificial saves the day ... I was scuppered by Glasgow's cross-town traffic and turned back to my local artifice that is Cuningar to climb the blue circuit I had imagined as

Timeline Walks of Scotland #Culbin Sands

The Moray Firth’s sand-bitten southern coast, between Findhorn and Nairn, is home to Scotland’s most cautionary tract of land. Now a wilderness of maritime forest, dunes, salt marsh and spits of sand, its human history has been dated to the Bronze Age, around 1300 BC, but it is a territory that since glacial times would have been mobile and mutable. The Laich of Moray is the fertile strip of plain squeezed between the foothills of the Cairngorms and the Moray Firth’s south coast. In Gaelic it is called Machair Mhoireibh (the machair of Moray), a perfect habitat for golf courses and rich arable farmland, threaded by the glacially-rivered straths of Nairn, Findhorn and Spey. Culbin is an old parish which is now buried under 28 square kilometres of duneland and recent forestry. Sweeping east of Narin and curving in to rise up to its greatest heights above the estuary of the River Findhorn, it is now managed by Forestry Commission Scotland, but it is notable that this is a humanl

Scottish Bouldering #New Glasgow climbing wall: The Prop Store

The Glasgow branch of The Climbing Academy (TCA) is just about to open its new bouldering and lead-climbing centre on Glasgow's north side. Its south-side twin ('The News Room')  is already a popular bouldering centre, but the new site will bring fresh inspiration to climbers on the north side of the Clyde. Situated in Maryhill, not far from the West End, this new centre is named after an old BBC prop warehouse, so it's been named ' The Prop Store '.  The centre feels roomy and spacious with a long profile. The holds and panels are super-grippy and there are some free-standing boulders to mantle out as well as an impressive offering of angles, roofs, slabs and subtly sweeping walls.  There is also a section of lead wall with auto-belays for top-roping practice, and a training centre upstairs. They should be open this December, but here are some preview shots.